To help to reduce poverty, the Government of Vietnam prioritized “inclusive innovation,” which involves developing programs to identify national development challenges (NDCs), and stimulating low-cost yet high quality technological solutions and products benefiting the poor. In 2010, the Government began to prepare the World Bank Vietnam Inclusive Innovation Project (VIIP), which was to launch and finance such a program. However, Vietnam’s National Foundation for Science and Technology (NAFOSTED), one of the key implementing agencies of the project, lacked the skills and know-how to develop and manage it. Complementing other Bank support, the Bank arranged for NAFOSTED to visit India to learn about inclusive innovation from its Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which had led such programs in India, and the Global Research Alliance (GRA).
Three senior staff from NAFOSTED visited India for five days in September 2011 to take part in workshops with the CSIR and GRA. Participants increased their awareness and knowledge of tools for identifying NDCs, platforms for crowdsourcing solutions, strategies for communicating with stakeholders, and good practices. Delegates learned how to leverage partnerships by visiting a private company with experience exporting inclusive innovation products and a research university. After the study tour, the CSIR continued to advise NAFOSTED through audio-conferences and expert visits to Hanoi, which helped to develop a framework outlining NAFOSTED’s next steps.
The exchange provided just-in-time support to help NAFOSTED develop a program in the context of the VIIP, which was approved in May 2013. The exchange was particularly valuable in moving from a broad awareness of inclusive innovation to understanding the intricacies of managing and operating a program. Testifying to this shift, delegates developed a grant manual delineating the fine points of program operations, such as procedures for calling for proposals, criteria for selecting and monitoring grants, scopes of funding, and reporting requirements.
As expressed by Do Phuong Lan, the Deputy Director of NAFOSTED: “[T]he study tour was helpful and fruitful, and improved the skills of NAFOSTED staff to manage an inclusive innovation program under the Vietnam Inclusive Innovation Project, particularly by sharing knowledge in project and grant management and research and development.”